The Star-Spangled Banner was a slap in the face for MLK Day

OPINION

By Ayiana Newcombe, Guest Writer

Every year, the third Monday in January is reserved to reflect upon and celebrate the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the efforts that he took to end segregation and advance the civil rights of African Americans. On the morning of Jan. 17, our school decided to make an announcement dedicated to honoring his achievements. But before the wonderful speech prepared by Kendall Anderson, someone thought it’d be appropriate to play the Star-Spangled Banner in his “honor.” Not only was this act inconsiderate but it was a sign of disrespect to the African American community and a slap in the face to all the efforts of Dr. King.

To start, The Star-Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key, a slave owner, anti-abolitionist and a lawyer who often represented other slave owners. How could someone believe that it is respectful in any way to play a song written by a slave owner to honor someone who fought for the rights of African Americans? Additionally, before the Star-Spangled Banner was made the national anthem, there was a verse that talked about hard-working slaves not being able to escape their deaths or the fear of what would happen to them if they attempted to flee. The original version of this song literally goes against everything that Dr. King and African Americans before and after Martin Luther King fought for. “The land of the free and the home of the brave” are lyrics written during a time where no African Americans were free and the majority of these “brave” people were those keeping them in shackles. King fought for equal rights amongst all — he wanted people of all races to be seen as human and nothing else — yet this song is the evidence of how African Americans were seen as property, not human, and not equal. 

Last year during black history month the school decided to play the African American anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Why wasn’t the same decision made Friday? Even when talking to my friends at the start of sixth period, none of them could believe that the black national anthem wasn’t played and we were all so perplexed with the idea that no one in our administration thought about the decision twice or saw what the issue was with it being played.  We were both so excited to sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” that Friday morning because it meant something to us. That song is what our ancestors sang in spite of all that they were going through to show that together we can be great and that together we could one day be victorious. Instead, it was replaced by a song written to idolize the men who victimized and tormented African Americans. 

We were disappointed that we couldn’t celebrate Dr. King the way he truly deserved.  It made me so mad to think that a school that prides itself on diversity and academic intelligence could make such a careless decision to play a song with a history that consists of the exploitation of our ancestors to celebrate one of the most admired men in black history.